What is Child development

Information here provides parents and guardians with the knowledge and guidelines and tools to provide support, guidance and learning experiences for their child to grow and develop according to his/ her unique abilities.

 As children develop from infants to teens and finally to adults, they go through a series of developmental stages that are quite important to the person they become i.e. socially, intellectually, physically and emotionally. Your role as a parent is to provide encouragement, support and access to activities that enable the child to master developmental tasks. As a parent you are your child’s first teacher, and you should remain their best teacher throughout life.

 Child development is a process that every child goes through. This process involves learning and mastering skills such as sitting, walking, talking and playing. These skills are what we would call developmental milestones. Child development specialists have learned that from birth, children are goal directed to experiment and learn from experience. As a parent, you need to expose your child to age appropriate challenges to encourage development as well as experiences that will allow your child to learn from interacting with the environment. A parent needs to provide the necessary support for a child to allow them to safely and productively learn from the environment.

 Children develop skills in five main areas of development:

 Cognitive development

This includes the child’s ability to learn and solve problems. For example this includes a two-month old baby learning to explore the environment with eyes or a six year old learning how to solve math problems.

 Social and emotional development

 This involves a child learning how to interact with others. For example a five year old knowing how to take turns when playing, a six week old baby smiling back at you or a ten month baby waving goodbye.

Speech and language development

This is the ability of the child to both understand and use language.  For example this may include a one year old learning to say his first words or a five year old learning to say “feet” instead of “foots”.

 Fine motor skill development

This is the ability of the child to use small muscles to pick objects, hold a cup or use crayons to draw.

Gross motor skill development

 This is the ability of the child to use larger muscles. For example a six month old baby who is learning to sit up with some support or a five year old who is learning to play football.

 What is a development milestone?

A development milestone is a skill that a child acquires within a specific time frame. Learning to walk for example is a developmental milestone. Most milestones develop in a sequential way. A child will need to develop some skills before developing new skills. A child will first learn to crawl before they can walk.

 As parents and caregivers we all want our children to succeed and be the best they can be. From research we know that how your child succeeds is influenced by two factors: environment and genes.

 Genes are the genetic material we pass onto our children. The other factor that influences child development is the environment. This includes the experiences of children in the homes, schools and community environments. The environment can either harm or improve a child’s genetic blue print. For example malnourished children who live in third world countries may not reach their IQ potential because of the impact of the environment on their brain.

 Some of the ways in which we can encourage brain development in children are:

  • Interact with your child by talking, playing, singing, reading and eating together. Your child will grow up feeling special to you

  • Learn simple parenting skills for helping your child to learn how to be around others. The most important parenting skills are having consistent rules, and rewarding behaviors you want to your child do more of, and have consequences for bad behavior.

  • Ask for help when and where you need it from other parents, your spouse, family, friends or even your child’s doctor.

  • Give your child lot of attention and love. No matter the age of a child, holding, hugging and listening are important ways to show your child they matter.

  • Limit TV time and video time to no more than 1-2 hours of educational viewing per day

  • Lastly read, read and read some more. Studies show that children who are read to by their parents have a larger vocabulary than other children.

However, when in doubt or have questions, do not hesitate to talk to a professional like your child’s doctor, a nurse, or a trained child development specialist. There is always someone in your community you can talk to.

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Why Child Protection

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The convention on the rights of the child (1989) outlines the fundamental rights of children, including the right to be protected from economic exploitation and harmful work, from all forms of sexual exploitation and abuse, and from physical or mental violence, as well as ensuring that children will not be separated from their family against their will. These rights are further refined by two Optional Protocols, one on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, and the other on the involvement of children in armed conflict.

 A family is the first space for protection of children. Parents and caregivers need to build and create a a protective and loving home environment for children. The community is also responsible for building a safe and child friendly environment outside of the home. Children need protection so they can fully grow and develop to their fullest potential.

 The term Child protection refers to preventing and responding to violence, exploitation and abuse against children. This includes trafficking, commercial sexual exploitation, child labour, harmful cultural practices such as early marriages and female genital mutilation. Child protection programmes aim at helping children who are vulnerable to these abuses especially where there is lack of parental care, during armed conflict and when children are in conflict with the law. Children need to be protected so that they can survive, grow, learn and develop to their fullest potential.

 Violations of children rights are evident in many countries and these cases are many, often under-recognized and under-reported. Needless to say these instances are a barrier to a child’s survival and development. Children subjected to exploitation, abuse, negligence and violence are at a risk for death, HIV/AIDS infection, Poor physical and mental health, displacement, educational problems, vagrancy and poor parenting and coping skills later in life.

 Building a protective environment for children that prevents and responds to violence, exploitation and abuse involves these components: Promoting, establishing and  enforcing of legislation; strengthening government commitment and capacity to protect children; open discussion of child protection issues that includes civil society and media; addressing harmful customs, practices and attitudes; building capacity for families and communities; provision of adequate and essential services for prevention, recovery and reintegration including basic education, health and protection ; developing children’s life skills, own participation and knowledge.; and establishing and implementing on-going and effective monitoring, reporting and oversight.

 Millions of children are facing violence, abuse, negligence and discrimination every day. These violations limit their chances of survival and the opportunity to follow and pursue their dreams. All children should be encouraged to speak up for the rights of children and to also take an active role in their own protection against abuse, exploitation, violence and discrimination.

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